It was a rare site for many beachgoers along the coast of Southern California last week when a gray whale and its calf splashed around about 10 yards from the shore.
The cow-calf pair were spotted by dozens of people on land and in boats Thursday afternoon, including riders from a whale-watching tour near 10th Street in Laguna Beach.
“We were still seeing large pods of whales swimming by over the weekend,” said Michael Hansen, president of Dana Wharf Whale Watching.
Spotting a gray whale so close to shore this late in the season was rare, he added.
As to why they would swim so close to shore?
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“I’m guessing these whales are related to, and are the sons and daughters of other whales that have swam by in the past,” Hansen said.
Last Thursday was a particularly busy day at the beach, with a heat wave bringing temperatures in the high 80s near the coast.
Swimmers, who hoped to get a closer look at the cow-calf pair, swam within feet of the duo.
“The whales are actually loving the people in the water, it's amazing they are going over to them," said Capt. Tom White, who was in charge of the boat tour that day.
Hansen warned that although the whales don’t scare off easily, it’s best to to stay away. Mothers traveling with their offspring could become aggressive, he added.
Gray whales generally travel from Mexico up north to Alaska for the summer. Sightings off the Orange County beaches have doubled from last year with more than 1,000 so far.
Hansen expected to see several more of the traveling pods over the next couple of weeks. Friends of his to the south have reported sightings of the migrating herds.